In the Bible, God often communicates with people verbally—with spoken language.
God speaks through prophets, angels, or dreams, as with St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Other saints and Biblical figures hear God speaking to them with their own ears.
Few people today have this kind of experience. Still, not hearing God audibly does not mean that God isn’t speaking to us. God guides us through subtler means—usually a feeling that we have or even our own voices “talking” to us throughout the day.
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Feelings of Right and Wrong
Have you ever found yourself making a new choice? A choice you have not encountered before or even heard about before?
The Bible tells us not to do things like kill and steal, but what about watching a television program just because you find a cast member attractive? The Bible tells us to help the poor and care for the sick, but what about giving up a bus seat to an elderly person?
We can guess what Jesus would have told us had there been buses and television 2000 years ago. But chances are you already know what to do in these situations. You have a feeling that tells you.
All of us get that feeling. Theologians have often pointed to it as proof that God exists and guides us. As the great twentieth-century writer C.S. Lewis described it in Mere Christianity:
“Men find themselves under a moral law, which they did not make, and which they cannot quite forget, even when they try, and which they know they ought to obey.”C.S. Lewis
God Does Lead Us
When you know what you should or shouldn’t do but want to go against your gut feelings, you may tell yourself, “God didn’t tell me that I have to do this or that I’m not allowed to do that, so it must be up to me.”
Most Christians pray that God will talk to them, that God will tell them what is right and wrong. Most Christians never hear an actual voice, but God guides us just the same through feelings and impulses that nudge us in the right direction.
Again, Lewis addresses these elements in Mere Christianity, writing:
“When a man makes a moral choice, two things are involved. One is the act of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses, and so on which his psychological outfit presents him with, which are the raw materials of his choice.”C.S. Lewis
Why Doesn’t God “Speak” to Us?
We don’t pray for God to speak to us because we think that He won’t. We pray for God to speak to us so we can know exactly what needs to be done.
So, why doesn’t God just speak to us audibly, as we speak to one another? Part of the reason is that we probably wouldn’t understand it if we did. As the Bible tells us:
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9
Instead of communicating with words, God communicates in ways that we can understand—even through gut feelings. This doesn’t mean that a stomachache or a headache is as close as we can get to hearing God’s voice.
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By making the right choices, surrounding ourselves with good people, and studying scripture, we can make our thoughts more like God’s thoughts. As the sixteenth-century writer Erasmus wrote in his Enchiridion:
“The Divine Spirit has its own manner of speaking and its own figures of speech. Learn these from the very outset. The Divine Wisdom speaks to us and, like an attentive mother, adjusts her language to our infancy.”Erasmus
Listen to Your Heart
It is good to hope to hear God’s voice while here on earth. However, not hearing God’s voice shouldn’t be a reason not to listen to our own voice. That little voice inside your head or the feeling in your heart telling you what’s right and wrong may, after all, be the voice of God.